Steve Moore wasn’t prepared for the bloodshed that awaited him at Janie Ballard’s home.
On the morning of Sept. 13, 2003, Little Rock dispatchers received a 911 call from a man saying he had found his friend dead inside her home. He had been trying to call the 58-year-old and decided to stop by after he failed to reach her. He was able to enter the property through the garage after spotting a set of keys hanging on the door.
“I thought it was going to be a short day,” the former Arkansas detective of the Little Rock Police Department told Fox News Digital. “I figured it was just somebody who wanted to make sure their loved one was OK. There was a football game later that day between Arkansas and Texas. I thought I would get back home in time to watch the game. It took about five minutes at the scene to realize that wasn’t going to be the case.”
Ballard’s murder will be explored in an upcoming episode of Investigation Discovery’s (ID) true-crime series, “Seduced to Slay.” It details how people across the country are manipulated into committing homicide.
MASSACHUSETTS MAN’S DEATHBED CONFESSION RATTLES FAMILY AFTER DECADES ON THE RUN: ‘IT WASN’T A WEIRD DAD JOKE’
Moore, who had been in law enforcement nearly 40 years, said Ballard’s death has stayed with him. The murder was described as “a blitz attack” in the series.
“I think there were close to 70 stab wounds on her,” Moore recalled. “There was blood all over the floor. Some spread on the furniture. She was soaked … from head to toe. When we moved her head, it was barely attached to the spine. It was cut from ear to ear. The way the throat was cut was brutal. And then you had all the stab wounds – these were all pretty deep. Any number of them would’ve been fatal without the throat-cutting.
“It was obvious that there was a lot of rage, a lot of anger involved,” Moore added. “It’s probably one of the more brutal cases I’ve ever come across. And this was a woman in her 50s in her own home. … This doesn’t happen, especially a murder with so much brutality, so much anger. It was obvious that whoever did this … just couldn’t control themselves. They couldn’t stop.”
According to the episode, the phone line had been cut and the cabinet doors were opened. Some jewelry had been scattered around. Police knew they had to notify one person — Ballard’s only living child, Leslie MacKool.
“Everybody that we talked to – friends and family – described her as a good girl,” Moore explained. “She went to an all-girls Catholic school here in Little Rock. She went on to study at the University of Arkansas. She always had good grades. She was a daddy’s girl. She did what she was told to do. … But when she met her husband, Mike MacKool, that all changed.”
I-70 SERIAL KILLER’S LONE SURVIVOR PLAYED DEAD TO SAVE HER LIFE: ‘THIS WAS NOT MY DAY TO BE TAKEN’
It was 2000 when MacKool, then 24, first ran into a “big muscled” Mike, who was 23 years older than her. He offered his services to be a personal trainer, and a smitten MacKool took him up on his offer. According to the series, they had “a very passionate” and “lustful” relationship. She transformed herself to appear as “a Barbie doll” to Mike, revamping herself as a blonde with a breast augmentation.
The couple tied the knot to Ballard’s dismay.
“To put it bluntly, she despised him,” Moore explained. “Both of her parents couldn’t stand Mike. They didn’t want Leslie anywhere near him. … Janie especially didn’t have any love or even likeness for Mike. And when Janie’s husband died [in August 2003], she became increasingly worried about Leslie. No, Janie didn’t want Leslie anywhere near Mike MacKool. She made that pretty clear to Leslie. She just wouldn’t accept him. And that’s when it all went south.”
Investigators uncovered Mike’s shady past. At age 17, he went out with friends when a fight occurred. According to the episode, he threw a punch at a pal, which caused him to fall back, land on his head and eventually die from his injuries. Mike was charged with manslaughter and was eventually given the option to join the Marine Corps. He served for several years in California before moving back to Little Rock. In his hometown, Mike had a reputation for being “a bad boy” and a bully.
Investigators also got in touch with Ballard’s attorney. They learned that her will was amended, which meant MacKool would only get $25,000. She was cut off from the family business, as well as her inheritance. It was a blow for the couple, who had been struggling with financial woes. MacKool initially thought she would be getting $750,000.
An angry MacKool confronted her mother, the episode claimed. Ballard became “in fear for her life,” prompting her to change the locks on her door and the code to her alarm.
MOTHER AND SON GRIFTERS WHO WERE ‘LIKE A COUPLE’ MURDERED WEALTHY SOCIALITE OVER NYC TOWNHOUSE: ‘EVIL ENERGY’
Suspicion heightened when investigators broke the news of Ballard’s murder to her daughter. MacKool’s “over the top” and “overboard” wailing made police raise their eyebrows. She was brought in for questioning.
“She wasn’t a back talker,” Moore said. “There was no attitude. She was still trying to be this good girl. We were trying to get her to explain how her husband killed her mother based on everything we heard from witnesses. We told her that he must have gotten tired of waiting for the money and figuring out how to get it, so he went and killed her mother. She was very formal about it all, but we knew she was lying. It was very obvious.
“Finally, we hammered down on her,” Moore continued. “We told her, ‘We know you’re lying. We know your mom and Mike didn’t get along. We know there was an argument between you and your mom a few weeks before this happened.’ She insisted that her parents didn’t have any issues with Mike and that everybody got along. We finally told her, ‘We just want to know the truth.’
“That’s when she sighed, put her head down and said, ‘I did it – I killed my mother.’
“That threw me,” Moore admitted. “I was waiting for her to say, ‘Yeah he did it.’ But as she opened up, there was no doubt in our minds that she was now telling the truth. She wasn’t trying to take the blame off of him. She admitted to committing the act but also explained pretty clearly how he helped plan it all out.”
According to the series, MacKool was devastated after she lost her father. When she went to visit her mother, she found that her childhood home had been redecorated in a matter of weeks. To her, it felt as if her father, known as “her saving grace,” had never existed. Following this “betrayal,” Ballard “drops the bomb” that her will was changed.
CALIFORNIA GRANDMOTHER WAS MURDERED BY CHEATING HUSBAND OVER WEALTH, DOC SAYS: ‘SHE DIDN’T DESERVE THIS’
The couple was charged with capital murder. Deputy Prosecutor W.A. McCormick told jurors they believed they would receive up to a $2 million inheritance if Ballard died within 30 days of her husband. He said MacKool waited in the bushes outside Ballard’s home dressed in dark clothing and ambushed her mother. After stabbing her repeatedly and cutting the phone line, she went upstairs to steal jewelry and a coin set that belonged to her father.
McCormick noted that the deadly duo wasn’t employed at the time of the killing.
Attorney Bill James said that MacKool committed the crime after Mike repeatedly threatened that he would kill her if she didn’t do so. He described Mike as a con artist who had power over his wife. It was Mike, he said, who came up with the master plan and manipulated his wife, playing on her emotions and anger, into following his lead.
Mike denied any involvement with the crime or ever being abusive to MacKool. The episode revealed that he eventually admitted to some part of the homicide but insisted it was all MacKool.
When MacKool led police to her home, they found her bloodied clothes hidden in a tire. The stash of jewelry was also discovered. MacKool told police she saw Mike throw the murder weapon into a nearby lake. A dive team found a butcher knife with an 8-inch blade.
“When her mom went through the door – and this is all based on her statement – Leslie attacked her from behind and started stabbing her,” Moore said. “Mike had told her where to stab her to make sure that she killed her. She made the point of saying she knew she got the lung because she could hear the air wheezing out when she hit that point. … This was just hateful.”
DREW CAREY, AMIE HARWICK’S HEARTBREAKING LAST CONVERSATION BEFORE HER TRAGIC MURDER REVEALED
MacKool was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Mike was sentenced to 40 years for a first-degree murder conviction and 20 years for a theft of property conviction.
Today, Moore said he would like to speak with MacKool again.
“I can see that Mike had so much influence over her,” he said. “But there were probably plenty of people she could have gone to and say, ‘Mike is trying to get me to do this – I need help.’ Mike was not unknown to the police. He was on reports made by other women who said he treated them badly, that he was controlling and manipulative. … But she was the one who stabbed her mother again and again.
“Every family has issues from time to time,” Moore reflected. “And maybe all this ‘good girl’ stuff was something she was told to be. And when she got with Mike, everything changed. … Their paths shouldn’t have never crossed.”
The “Seduced to Slay” episode “The Good Girl” premieres Dec. 18 at 10 p.m. on ID.